If your program is expecting to compete in DRS this year, you may feel some uncertainty about what that will look like. When will applications be due? What will the requirements be? How can we prepare? These are a few of the common questions we hear from programs anticipating a DRS competition.
While we can’t offer definite information about the 2021 DRS grant competitions, we can provide insight into what you might expect based on past years’ experience. And, there’s plenty you can do to prepare while you wait for your program’s DRS grant competition.
Timeline. One of the first indicators that a DRS grant competition is approaching is a forecast on grants.gov. There are not any DRS competitions currently forecasted. The forecast will include an estimated posting date for the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) and an estimated due date. Based on recent years’ DRS timelines, we expect that forecasts for 2021 DRS grant competitions will be posted to grants.gov in late spring or early summer.
If timelines hold true from previous years, the DRS competitions could take place this fall; for example, FOAs released in September and applications due in November. Typically, the turnaround time is 8-9 weeks from FOAs posting and the application due date (though 2020 competitions were delayed and due in January 2021).
Format. The format of DRS FOAs – which spell out what you’ll need to write about and the documentation you’ll need to provide – has changed very little in recent years. We recommend reviewing a past FOA to ground your program in what to expect. Past FOAs (here is an example) are available on the ACF Funding Opportunity Announcements website.
Applications are limited to 150 pages total; while there is flexibility in page allocation, this usually ends up being around 75 pages of narrative and 75 pages of appendices (which include items like letters of supports, agreements, resumes, and organizational chart).
There are seven core sections of the application: Demonstration of Need for Child Development and Health Services, Achieving Early Learning and Development Outcomes to Promote School Readiness for Children, Past Performance, Staffing and Supporting a Strong Early Learning Workforce, Planning and Implementation, Organizational Capacity and Governance, and Budget and Budget Justification.
Preparation. One of the first, and most time-sensitive, things you can do to prepare for a DRS grant competition is to ensure that your program’s community assessment is comprehensive and up-to-date. You will need community assessment data for inclusion in your application narrative, and your program will need to lean on the data for justification of its program design. Because community assessments (or updates) can take months to conduct thoughtfully, we recommend reviewing your community assessment data as soon as possible.
Second, begin conversations about program design and budget planning. Particularly if your program is considering making a change to your program design, now is the time to discuss program types, placement of slots, and how much it will cost. Because your entire DRS application will rely on a justifiable, data-based, program design its important to start these conversations early. The strength of your program design – and its connection to addressing community need – has a significant impact on the quality and competitiveness of your proposal.
With a plan in place and an early start on preparation, the DRS process can go smoothly and result in a successful, on-time submission. Foundations for Families has substantial experience helping programs to prepare for and submit DRS proposals. If your program is interested to explore our Community Assessment services or Grant Writing Solutions, please contact us.
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